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Blogs and blogging Design Policy issues Publishing Social Web Web/Tech

Make your Web

I enjoyed Tantek Çelik‘s recent talk at beyond tellerrand // DÜSSELDORF 2019. If you’re interested in the IndieWeb, or just curious why having a personal site is still so important, make yourself a beverage and enjoy:

Featured image: IndieWebCamp Berlin 2018 | Day 1 by tollwerk GmbH, licensed CC BY NC SA 2.0

Categories
Applications Publishing Useful stuff

Silence is not necessarily golden for Evernote

I’ve been an Evernote user for well over a decade, and I used it daily until a couple years ago. I have almost 29,000 notes (a fair number of these notes are automatically captured using IFTTT workflows).

In recent years, Evernote has been pretty quiet on its blog, and while it’s released updates to the app, I haven’t felt like this is a dynamic company, constantly working to evolve it’s product. This has been a little disconcerting, as I have a lot of data in Evernote that I have been storing there intentionally.

At the moment, there isn’t another service like Evernote that uses this notes and notebook model to capture different content types into a pretty flexible reference system. I use Google Drive to store a lot of my stuff too, but it doesn’t feel as fluid to me.

I’ve also been experimenting with a private WordPress.com site too. I think this option is pretty close to Evernote, and even has some benefits that Evernote lacks because WordPress uses web technology (it is a publishing platform after all), so it opens the door to much richer content embeds, and formatting.

Still, short of an importer from Evernote to WordPress, or another suitable alternative, I’ve stuck with Evernote. It’s the simplest solution, even if Evernote becomes a historical reference service for me.

That being said, it was encouraging to see this video from Evernote’s current CEO about how they’ll be giving us insights into what’s happening behind the scenes, and what they’re working on:

I don’t know what lies ahead for Evernote. My Premium subscription is up for renewal next month, and I’m pretty sure I’ll renew, at least for another year. For now, though, I’m looking forward to see what they have in the pipeline. It might just tempt me back into more regular use.

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Publishing Social Web Web/Tech

Twitter’s conversational problem is that it’s not suited to have one

Recode’s article titled “How hard is it to have a conversation on Twitter? So hard even the CEO can’t do it.” highlights a perennial challenge on Twitter: having a coherent conversation about pretty much anything –

There simply wasn’t enough room to have the kind of nuanced conversation the subject requires. It was symbolic of Twitter’s broader problem: It’s almost impossible to have a smart, healthy argument on Twitter because no one has the space needed to share their thoughts.

Anyone remember Friendfeed? Actually, perhaps a more interesting solution could have been Google Wave.

Neither of these options are around any longer, and their successors don’t have the traction or appeal for this sort of use case.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Creative expression Publishing

My blog is 14 years old, today, and it’s a big day for blogging

Today is a Big DayTM For Blogging, but probably only for me. Today is this blog’s 14th birthday! On 6 December 2004, I wrote my first post on this WordPress blog:

Where this chapter all began …

It was originally at a different domain, and has evolved over the last 14 years. I probably have a fair share of somewhat trashy posts, especially from my blog’s earlier years, and I’ve suffered some losses along the way due to rushed or poorly managed migrations from one server to another.

Still, after 14 years, I’m still blogging, albeit it somewhat erratically. Here’s the current state of my blog:

This year has been an interesting one for me when it comes to blogging. My day job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is focused on helping our customers build, maintain, and grow their WordPress.com sites. I deal with issues ranging from domain configurations, to custom CSS to tweak theme designs, to a little HTML to help structure page content better, to more involved WooCommerce store configurations, and a lot of troubleshooting in between.

Despite spending all that time focused on our customer’s sites, I’ve only published 148 blog posts of my own in 2018 (including this one). I seem to have surges of activity when I’m not working, or when I have something short to share using the WordPress.com Android app.

Regardless of how much I’ve shared this year, I’m really glad that I have this place of my own on the Web, wherever it may be from time to time. I strongly believe in the importance of having your own space on the Web that you own, and control (as much as you can when it comes to other people’s servers).

This is my home on the Web, weird content choices and all. Thank you for being part of it.

Categories
Blogs and blogging People Publishing

On Manton Reece’s thoughts about WordPress, and the new Editor (formerly known as Gutenberg)

I just read Manton Reece’s thoughts about the new WordPress Editor (formerly known as Gutenberg), and I don’t really agree:

As I test Gutenberg, I keep coming back to one question: is it good for blogging? The goal with Micro.blog is to make blogging easier so that more people will have their own site instead of delegating their web identity to a social network. Gutenberg is more flexible than today’s WordPress, but it’s also more complex for someone who just wants to type in a few sentences and hit publish.

The new editor is available to both WordPress.com and self-hosted sites ahead of the WordPress 5.0 release. I’ve been using it on this site for a couple weeks, and in a couple test sites so I can anticipate or troubleshoot issues that our users may encounter.

I think there’s some merit in Reece’s perception of Gutenberg. I also think I fall more into the category of bloggers who like to open a simple editor and start typing into a text box.

A lot of WordPress users don’t want this simpler experience. I come across many people who want a very visual editor where you can create pretty dynamic layouts on the fly.

The new editor may be more for those people, but it can work pretty well for someone who wants to open a blank editor window and start typing, too.

Put another way, as WordPress matures I think it moves further away from the ideal blogging interface for someone who wants to write every day. Even as we add features to Micro.blog — domain names, themes, full-length posts, photos, podcasting — the core platform will always be rooted in the simple idea of a text box and a timeline.

Granted I’m a little biased because I work for Automattic, and I believe in what we’re doing. At the same time, I was a blogger long before I joined this company, and WordPress has been synonymous with “blogging” for me for almost 14 years.

I’m still deciding whether the new WordPress Editor is going to be the default on my personal site. It’s still early days for Gutenberg, and I think it has an exciting future.

That said, I like my simpler text windows, Markdown, and monospace fonts when I write (thank goodness for MarsEdit). Not everyone does, and WordPress is still flexible enough to accommodate almost all of us.

(Now, if I could just configure this blog to play nicely with all its IndieWeb cousins again, that would be great.)

Categories
Books Publishing Spirituality Useful stuff

You can now read important Jewish texts like the Talmud online

This story appeals to me on so many levels. Perhaps the biggest reason why it excites me is that I’m very much in favour of important works like the Talmud being made freely available online, if anything, as an important cultural and historical resource.

After a prolonged negotiation process, and a substantial gift from the William Davidson Foundation, Sefaria was able to secure the copyright. Then, they ceded their rights and made it available free to the public, a move common to nature conservancies but vanishingly rare in the publishing world, since copyright and exclusivity are major guarantors of revenue.

I’m not even remotely a serious Jewish scholar, but the fact that these resources are available online to anyone who wants to read them, is a powerful way to ensure that our history is preserved for future generations. It’s also a terrific way to accurately communicate who we are as a people.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing Semantic Web Tutorials Useful stuff

Post Kinds, in depth

If you’re looking for a detailed guide to Post Kinds, then read Chris Aldrich’s “Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress“. I’ve been meaning to read this article properly for a little while now to help me better understand how to use Post Kinds more effectively on my site.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Mindsets People Publishing Semantic Web

Rethinking Mastodon

I’ve been pretty interested in Mastodon as a Twitter alternative, at least until I noticed Brent Simmons’ post.

He linked to Wil Wheaton’s post titled “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it” in which Wheaton described a particularly unpleasant, and unexpected experience on Mastodon:

I thought that if I left Twitter, I could find a new social network that would give it some competition (Twitter’s monopoly on the social space is a big reason it can ignore people who are abused and harassed, while punishing people for reporting their attackers), so I fired up this account I made at Mastodon a long time ago.

I thought I’d find something different. I thought I’d find a smaller community that was more like Twitter was way back in 2008 or 2009. Cat pictures! Jokes! Links to interesting things that we found in the backwaters of the internet! Interaction with friends we just haven’t met, yet! What I found was … not that.

I’m sure that Wheaton’s experience of Mastodon doesn’t describe all Mastodon interactions. The same could be said of Twitter. In both cases, the trollish elements spoil the experience for everyone else.

His experience doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Mastodon as a more civil alternative to Twitter. This isn’t because Mastodon is fundamentally bad, it’s just being used by people who are behaving much the same as other people on Twitter who I’d prefer to avoid having to deal with.

I’ll just stick with my blog, and some sort of Micro.blog hook for now.